Shedding our labels is no small task. As humans, we can be very prone to labeling ourselves and this can have a powerfully limiting effect on us. I often hear students label themselves as “inflexible,” “weak” or “incapable” in some way, shape or form. These adjectives most likely came from a comparison with others. Yoga teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, tells us that this type of comparison causes us to become externally referential in that we make sense of ourselves by referring to outer standards. Constant comparison with outer standards leads to feelings of inadequacy and can even discourage beginning yoga students from coming back to class because they believe they don’t fit the standard for who is supposed to be in a yoga class.
I always remind my students, and will gladly shout it from the rooftops, that there is NO standard for yoga. There is not an adjective you can label yourself with that gives you an easy out for yoga class. Yoga does not discriminate. The beauty of yoga is that this practice meets us exactly where we are in the moment… even if that means we show up with short hamstrings, small biceps and a belly that sticks out a little farther than the person on the mat next to us in class. Theodore Roosevelt urged us not to go down this road in life. As he once profoundly stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Not comparing ourselves to others takes effort and restraint to avoid. My recommendation when a tendency to label comes up, is to first think: it’s ok. Don’t judge yourself for the mere fact that a negative thought is entering your mind… you are human after all and comparing and labeling are natural human tendencies. Once you have successfully avoided self-judgment, say to yourself, this is what’s going on with me today and I will honor that. Thoughts are not permanent and they do not define us. Just as we can change or eliminate a thought so can we change and eliminate a label that we may have created for ourselves. Non-attachment is a huge part of the yoga practice and shedding our labels requires us to detach from them.
As Aadil says, “Defining ourselves in terms of external references is a dead end because it means ignoring the desires of the soul.” So, drop your labels, embrace where you are in the present moment and recognize the beauty that lies both without and more importantly, within you.
Danielle Dickinson is a yoga teacher, TRE facilitator, animal lover, sun worshiper, laugh lover and studio owner. You can catch both her yoga classes and private TRE services at Yoga For All Beings in Chicago. www.yogaforallbeings.com